Environmental Psychology Essay

Why do individuals act differently in different social settings? Environmental Psychology is the field of psychology which studies the way human behavior is affected by their environment. Environment refers to an individual’s social setting, which can change consistently. (Fisher, 2007). Social settings and educational settings, professional settings and home settings can all be very different environments and different behaviors can be exhibited in each environment.

An individual is most likely to interact differently in a social setting of close friends than they would in a professional setting of business associates and management. Environmental psychology closely examines behavioral problems, attitudes, cognition and conflict. Environmental psychologist focus on real life problems that happen in everyday life, in order to collect accurate data studies are done out in the real world and then compared with different theories. There are different orientations in environmental psychology.

Problem oriented deals with the direct and specific relationship between the environment and its inhabitants. Environmental psychologist need to be able to solve problems, the different problems identified by environmental psychologist can affect all members of society and can range from overcrowding in urban communities to the design of an office building or school. Personal space and territory is very important to environmental psychology. Space plays a very important part in day-day living. (Young, 2010).

You may have heard before that people in New York are always angry, well look how busy and crowded the city is, the crowded population and busy environment may have a lot to do with the attitudes and behaviors exhibited by New Yorkers. Human beings like to have their own personal space, knowing you have an area that belongs to you big or small, which is your own refuge is very important for behavior. System oriented experiments focus on social and group interaction, such as a small community, church or group of employees.

Interdisciplinary oriented is combining theories of environmental psychology mixed with other branches of studies in psychology to gain a better understanding and multiple perspectives on an area of study. It is important to note that environmental psychologists also work in the field of architecture, urban planning, interior design and landscaping so different views and perspectives are very important. The last orientation is space-over-time. Space over time is a study of past issues and results and how they can be related to present day and time. (Young, 2010).

Settings change over time and so do human beings understanding how the environment you came from can affect the environment you are in now can be very important. Willy Hellpach is known to be the first individual to coin the term Environmental Psychology. Willy is known for his studies on how extreme environments, the sun and moon and color can all have very different affects on human behavior. World War 11 was a major turning point for environmental psychology. Social issues, war, prejudice and peace all brought on a great demand for a clear understanding on how people’s environments could affect their behavior.

During the world War 11 eras the validity of research done on environmental psychology was questionable because most studies where being conducted in laboratories. Today environmental psychologists study real life situations in real life settings, outside the lab. John B. Calhoun conducted many experiments in 1947 dealing with how many rats he could confine into a small space, upon continuous research Calhoun discovered that the amount of food the rats were given along with shelter and different types of bedding all had an effect on the rat’s behavior. Fisher, 2007). The rats with more space to run around in and consistent meals seemed more upbeat and performed better on tests. Calhoun also noted that the rats without sufficient shelter and nesting space abandoned their young and where quite more aggressive than the other rats.

Research in the field of environmental psychology is extremely important because from adolescents to adulthood human beings and the environments we live in are forever changing. Throughout one’s life time we encounter many different people whether it is through personal or ork related environments. It is important to understand why someone who grew up in a hippie environment may be a little more reserved than an individual who grew up in a strict Amish community, or why an individual who grew up in an environment where they or individuals around them were molested grow up to also be molesters. Environmental Psychology can be applied to so many different factors of day to day living weather it is the way we design our homes or small personal spaces within a larger space such as a cubical at work.

Human beings interact and behavior can dictate or contribute to good or bad behavior. The study of environmental psychology helps bridge the gap between why individuals can be so different or the same based on their different environments.


Young, D. R. (2010, August 9). Environmental Psychology []. Message posted to http://Young, D. R. (August 9/2010). Environmental Psychology. Retrieved from http://www-personal. umich. edu/~rdeyoung/envtpsych. html Fisher, J. J. (2007). What is Environmental Psychology. Retrieved from http://environmentpsychology. com/environmental_psychology. htm